State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 09-01
Does participation in the audit described below violate Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 02-05 or any provision of the Code of Judicial Conduct? Further, does participation in the audit create an appearance that the court favors victims over the accused because no consideration is given to the accused in the audit? Finally, does the fact that the Commission rents space from an advocacy group and receives accounting and payroll services from the advocacy group create the appearance that the advocacy group and the court are participating jointly in this audit in violation of Opinion No. 02-5 or any provision of the Code of Judicial Conduct?
The county has a domestic violence commission ("commission"). This commission is a stand-alone non-profit organization created by local legislative authorities. The commission rents space from a local domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy group. The advocacy group also provides payroll and accounting services to the commission. The commission relies in part upon grant monies from a variety of sources including the Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women (e.g., “Grant to Encourage Arrests”).
The commission has conducted audits of various criminal justice organizations in the county. The audit is described as a tool intended to help communities work toward the common goals of enhancing safety and ensuring accountability when intervening in cases involving domestic violence. Through the audit process, so called “gaps” in victim safety are identified and solutions to address those gaps are recommended. The audit provides a unique and focused opportunity to examine how domestic violence cases are handled within a particular system, and based on that analysis, implement improvements. The central focus of the process is to “see the gap from the victim's position and to see how it is produced by case management practices.”
The commission wants to audit the court to determine how it may improve its processes to better respond to the needs of victims of domestic violence. Participation in the audit would involve extensive court staff time. The court and its staff will be called upon to help develop audit questions, provide audit interviews, and assist in data collection and review. When the audit is complete, a written formal report is generated that summarizes the findings and recommendations from the audit team. In past audits, the participating organization has been asked to pledge in advance of the audit to adopt the audit team’s recommendations as to improvements or changes suggested by the audit.
The crux of Opinion 02-5 is that a judicial officer should not participate in an activity which will call the judicial officer’s impartiality into question or impair his or her ability to preside over matters which come before the judicial officer.
The representations as to the operations of the commission and the purpose for the audit made by the judicial officer requesting an opinion raise several concerns. They are: 1) the domestic violence commission rents space from an advocacy group, which provides payroll and accounting services to the commission; 2) the description of the purpose for the audit and its outcomes is slanted to see gaps from the perspective of the victim only; 3) participation in the audit will involve extensive court staff time and the judicial officers will also be called upon to participate in the audit; and 4) in the past, participating organizations have been asked to pledge in advance of the audit to adopt the audit team’s recommendations as to improvements and changes suggested by the audit.
Based upon the factual representations, it would not be appropriate for the court to participate in this audit based on CJC Canon 2(A), 3(B)(2) and 4(A).
Also see Opinion 02-5.
|Courts | Organizations | News | Opinions | Rules | Forms | Directory | Library|
|Back to Top | Privacy and Disclaimer Notices|